Monday 29 April 2013

Where it all began Part 1

Rediscovered in my history exercise book from when I was 14: an essay entitled Advertising.

'Advertising is one of the main mass media in the 20th C. Advertising can be used for many things, the main one being to promote a certain product so that people will buy it. There are advertisments for entertainments. Election propaganda is a form of advertising.

Product advertising may take place on the radio, in newspapers or magazines or on the television. The BBC do not show adverts for products but ITV shows about five or so adverts each quarter hour or twenty minutes.

Adverts are not necessarily lies but many of them are misleading and distort the truth. They often lead people to buy things that they don't really want or need but adverts have led them to buy these things.

Product promotion adverts can appeal to many human emotions, such as greed, pride, vanity and "keeping up with the Joneses." Because television adverts are so short, and adverts in papers etc. may only take up a small area, the most important thing is impact so that the person looking is struck straight away.' be continued!

Monday 22 April 2013

Emporium of saudade

When I first visited Portugal, in the 1980s, a friend of mine had an old phrasebook with her that had belonged to her father as a young man. It contained such useful phrases as "Where can I have my moustache waxed?" Younger readers, please note that this was something a man would have asked in order to achieve the Salvador Dali or pantomime villain look, rather than something a woman would ask in order to get rid of unwanted facial hair.

A Vida Portuguesa, which has two bricks-and-mortar branches so far, could probably cater for that request. A quick look at their website revealed that they do indeed stock wax, although it may be more suited to shining floors than twirling moustaches. As well as wax, the store specialises in all manner of original Portuguese brands, many of these handcrafted and all offered in gorgeously nostalgic original packaging.

There are shaving brushes and soaps, sardines and sweets - and the website uses the Portuguese word saudade (which is untranslatable but approximates to a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing) to describe the power of these brands.

It's a smilar feeling to that evoked by looking through what Manufactum has to offer, and tickles the same the nerves that get all warm and fuzzy when I see an English shop or market stall here stocking Colman's Mustard, HP Sauce, Marmite and Lyle's Golden Syrup.

Whether you're Portuguese, German or British, these sorts of stores are a welcome antidote to all those Global Brands with their drearily consistent bland pack designs.

A Vida Portuguesa probably won't rescue the Portuguese economy single-handedly, but if the store can instill pride back into Portuguese produce, it's a step in the right direction.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Don't tear down my silos

We're encouraged, these days, to discourage silo thinking.

In communications, we need to think integrated and stop all those digital johnnies and all those TV johnnies and all those guerilla jills getting ensconced in their silos and not talking to each other, then producing something horribly inconsistent and fragmented and non-synergistic and just...wrong.

And in brand management, we argue that "the brand" is more than the responsibility of the marketing department. A living, breathing, growing and healthy brand can only be the result of collaboration and openness internally between departments, and with our external stakeholders. No secrets, no hogging data, no ignoring or resisting what the guys in the other silo are up to.

And, most of this makes sense. For brands.

But I am not a brand. At least, I wasn't the last time I looked. I was somewhat non-plussed the other day when YouTube suggested I change my user name, I think, to bring it more in line with my Google name, or my Facebook name (or are they the same these days?). There was some burble about how all this would make me easier to find, or more famous or more profitable or something. They were even up for suggesting suitable names for me.

I didn't pursue it further because I like my silo approach on the web. I am a multi-facetted creature and intend to stay that way. If some clever clogs makes the link between Extrawurst and the trailer for my children's book on YouTube then good for them. I've got nothing to hide.

I just don't necessarily want it all joined up.

Monday 8 April 2013

Co-opting out

I read a good blog recently from Mark Bonchek in the Harvard Business Review Blog entitled Purpose is good. Shared purpose is better. The author looks at a number of Mission Statements and similar statements of Brand or Company Purpose and comes to the conclusion that we should think about whether our Brand Purpose takes the preposition "for" or "with".

Here are two examples in a similar category:

Dunkin Donuts: Make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in  modern, well-merchandised stores

Starbucks: Our Mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time

The Dunkin Donuts statement, and the other examples of "for" purposes that the author gives are very product or category-focussed and are about "delivery" rather than "participation". The Starbucks example - and the rest of the "with" examples - are less about the product, but more about the human benefit.

Mark Bonchek argues that the "with" statements are the way we should be going as customers become co-creators.

I'm with him. Up to a point.

You see, I think that there are some brands that are more about participation and co-creation than others. Football Clubs are an obvious example, as well as sports brands generally. Brands that have an element of creativity or DIY at their heart, from Apple to IKEA to Lego also fit the bill.

But there are other lower interest categories where I don't want to co-create or join a community. I want to trust the brand to get on and provide me with a good service or product that does the job. This can be anything from the more complex, necessary evils like Insurance or Financial Services right down to the literally bog-standard everyday products such as bog roll and bog cleaner.

More unexpectedly perhaps, I don't necessarily want to get into co-creating or clubbing with certain luxury brands. I like these to maintain their glamour, their mystique, their superior expertise that's beyond mere mortals such as I.

And, to be honest, when I go for a good coffee and a donut, I'd like just that, rather than any botched-up attempts to inspire and nurture my spirit. That takes something other than a triple-skinny-sodapop-creme-fluff.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Weirdness at Work

I have been on Facebook since 2007 and, while I go through phases where either Facebook itself or one or two the users I'm connected to irritate the heck out of me, I do have to admit that this is a brand that's made a difference to my life - and can genuinely be described as a business phenomenon.

I was fascinated to read a blog in Marketing Magazine by Anil Pillai about his experiences in the Facebook HQ, and how the company philosophy is made apparent is the workplace. Things like Facebook being a permanent "work-in-progress", constantly in change, as witnessed by the lack of logos and corporate symbols cast in stone and by "walking meetings". Or hacking and fiddling as a way of life, not just tolerated but expected and encouraged.

Particularly appealing is the feeling of trust, of treating employees as adults (or maybe young student-type adults is the best description). No clocking in or out, as long as the work gets done. This feels similar to the Zappos culture, with its free lunches, nap room and co-created artwork on the walls. Tony Hsieh's Zappos ten core values include "deliver WOW through service" and "create fun and a little weirdness".

I do hope that the everyday internal reality does match what's seen on a snapshot visit from an outsider. And that if someone does want to do a Powerpoint presentation to an audience sitting in a traditional conference room, it's allowed!